Inside the Ropes
Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club, Palm Harbor, FL
Par 71 (36-35)
Rough: 2.5 inches
8,024 square foot (on average) greens
Stimpmeter rolling 11 feet
9 water hazards
Course Architect: Larry Packard (1972)
Notes: Bermudagrass and poa trivialis greens; Bermudagrass and perennial ryegrass rough
FedExCup Points: 500 (winner’s share)
Winner’s Share: $990,000
Defending Champion: American Gary Woodland secured his first Tour victory by holding off Webb Simpson by one shot.
Notes: This will be the 12th consecutive season at this course.
Date: Mar 15-18, 2012
The Copperhead Course has hosted 11 events since 2000 and has produced two, multiple-winners, K.J. Choi (2002, 2006) and Retief Goosen (2003, 2009).
In those 11 events, six have been won by internationals and five by U.S. players.
Four of the previous winners have been major champions (Goosen, Calc, Furyk, and Singh).
Only Carl Pettersson in 2005 and Gary Woodland in 2011 have made this event their first-ever career Tour victory.
John Huston in 2000, Goosen in 2003 and Woodland are the only players to win The Transitions in their first attempt.
In 12 tournaments this season, the Young versus Old argument is now 8-2-2.
For the young, Johnson Wagner (31), Brandt Snedeker (31), Kyle Stanley (24) Bill Haas (29), John Huh (21), Hunter Mahan (29), Rory McIlroy (22) and Justin Rose (31) lead the way for the Young guys.
Mark Wilson (37) is now joined by George McNeill (36) in the middle, a half-point for each.
Steve Stricker (44) and Phil Mickelson (41) are flying the flag for the old folks on Tour.
So What? So Let’s Dance!
Welcome to the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort and Spa as the Transitions Championship where 18 of the world’s top 36 players are teeing it up this week. Tree-lined fairways and rolling hills make this course unique and very “un-Florida” like. Instead of flat, wind-swept courses, the tree-lined fairways will present a different challenge this week. Solid iron play will separate the field this week. Above-average sized greens will make two-putting necessary; Tree-lined fairways will keep my eyes on the scramblers as well who might have to grind it out to get up-and-down.
The Copperhead Course at Innisbrook ranked 27th-hardest of the 51 courses played on Tour in 2011 yet falls in the Tour player’s top 10. Bermudagrass and perennial ryegrass rough and Bermudagrass and poa trivialis greens will test the player’s patience as will the 75 bunkers and 9 water hazards.
The Transitions Championship has been played at Innisbrook since its inception in 2000. Due to the tragic events of 9/11, there was no tournament played in 2001.
The Copperhead Course had the seventh-toughest three-hole finish on Tour in 2011. Dubbed “The Snake Pit”, holes 16-18 played .45 strokes-over par. If you take out Atlanta Athletic Club (PGA) and Royal St George’s (Open Championship), it would have ranked fifth-toughest. Players will have to keep their nerve heading down the stretch for the third consecutive week on Tour, after “The Bear Trap” and 18 at Doral.
After Tiger’s injury, Sergio’s 12 plus his own thundershower and golf “jerseys” with number “17” being worn by players, I hope golf gets back to normal this week…
Hoosier High Five:
My six-pack idea stunk last week so we’re going with the “Hoosier High Five”. The “Hoosier High Five” is the nickname of the five national championship banners that hang in Assembly Hall at Indiana University. Since my boys are dancing this week for the first time in four years and the NCAA tournament is happening, we’ll go with a hoops motif this week.
These are the five guys (no Phil, not those Five Guys) who I project will be near or at the top this week. Think of it as the Final Four plus one.
Charl Schwartzel: The South African looks like he is rounding his game into shape to defend his title at The Masters next month. He began his season state-side with a second-round loss at WGC-Match Play. In his next two events, both stroke-play he finished T5 at Honda with three doubles and was T4 last week at WGC-CC. He was no worse than 16th in all four majors last year and is in the middle of a 22 cuts-made streak as well. John Huston and Gary Woodland have shown that first-timers can win at Transitions.
Luke Donald: After his Luke-warm start, the former world No. 1 looked to be back to his number one self last week at Doral. His T6 was by far his best finish in 2012 after T48 at Abu Dhabi, T56 at NTO and being knocked out in the first round at WGC-Match Play. His 19 birdies last weekend show me that he’s ready to take back the title of being the world’s best. He was T6 in 2010 after not playing last year at Transitions.
Peter Hanson: Hands up! I whiffed! Gotcha. Ain’t making that mistake again this week. Hanson has nine top 11’s since October of 2011. I’m no longer splitting hairs. I’m in. His last two events were a quarterfinal appearance at WGC-Match Play and T4 at WGC-CC after being T4 GIR. Not a bad way to start his 2012!
Bo Van Pelt: Steady off the tee and steady on the greens. Nothing flashy and I like that. Van Pelt’s last three stroke-play events have been T8 WMPO, T8 NTO, and T8 WGC-CC. Oh, and he’s made 7 of 8 cuts here with two-career top eights. Eights are obviously wild and plus, he’s originally from Indiana. Karma!
Justin Rose: His last four stroke-play events have descended perfectly: T33 FIO, T13 NTO, T5 Honda Classic and WIN last week at WGC-CC. His record at Transitions is rock-solid as well with six cuts made in six and his worst finish being T30 in 2004. The last two years he’s finished T5 and T13. I’d have him ranked higher if he hadn’t won last week. I’m not a believer in repeating. Not on this Tour. Not with this deep of a field.
These golfers all have a chance of winning but you can only pick so many to survive and advance. And just like filling out the bracket, tough decisions have to be made.
John Senden: The Aussie is off to a blazing start in 2012 with five cuts made in five starts. His worst finish is T44 and he has three top 10’s at The Humana, WGC-Match Play and WGC-CC. His history at Transitions makes him a prime selection this week as he’s seen the weekend six of eight appearances and has been runner-up twice, in 2007 and 2008. He finished T15 last year.
Nick Watney: His 69-67 weekend at WGC-CC has my attention as he tries to continue his trend of going lower in 2012. He’s made six cuts from six, but his only top 10 was his round of 16 defeat in WGC-Match Play. From T40 AT&T to T34 NTO to T17 WGC-CC, Watney is moving in the right direction. He’s also made six cuts from six attempts at Transitions and his last three years have been T13, fourth and T12.
Matt Kuchar: He came on strong on a track he loves at Doral and has been trending in the right direction in his last three stroke-play events. His record at Transitions has been solid, just like Kuchar’s game, as he’s posted top 20 finishes in three of his four career starts.
Webb Simpson: In three career starts, he’s finished second, T13 and CUT. His bogey on the 72nd hole last year saw him miss out on a playoff with eventual-winner Gary Woodland. In 2012, Simpson has made every cut and has a streak of 12 consecutive cuts-made. He has too much game to leave out.
Harris English: The last time out he had his first taste of what it was like to play on Sunday with a chance to win on Tour. Although he didn’t take it, firing 77 in the final round at Honda, I believe the experience will drive him on this week. He’s made six cuts in six appearances and has hit the top 25 in three of them. After taking last week off, I believe he’ll be ready to fire at them this week.
Jason Day: After starting his season with CUT, T2 in the Middle East, Day has had mixed results in the U.S. His game showed signs of life at WGC-CC last week where he finished T20. As I mentioned before, he and his wife are expecting this spring and we’ll see how this affects his golf game. His record at Transitions is not great but I’m confident he’s moving in the right direction.
George McNeill: Last week’s winner at the Puerto Rico Open has made five cuts in seven events this season and has been second (2008) here before. I’m playing the hot-hand this week.
Zach Johnson: He was cruising along last week until he was undone by a final round 75 at WGC-CC. He looks to be close as he backed up his T17 at NTO with T17 last week.
The Other Half of the Sweet Sixteen:
Guys that will make the weekend, but you’re on your own after that.
K.J. Choi: Choi has a maddening record at this event. He’s won twice and has been second and sixth on top of missing the cut four times and WD once. His results from 2012 are just as maddening as he started the year T5 at HTOC but has backed that up with T38 at Sony, T24 NTO and T35 last week. I have no clue which K.J. Choi shows up this week.
Sergio Garcia: Speaking of maddening, Garcia is just that by definition. His last four starts on the European Tour he was no worse than T12. In the states, he destroyed the NTO on Sunday with 64 to finish T4, yet was eliminated in the first round at the WGC-Match Play. Last week, he turned in the first round at 31. He backed that up with 44 on the back. He had his own personal thundershower soak him. He carded five birdies and an eagle on Sunday but managed 12 on number three and a double on 18. That might be one of the best 76’s you’ll ever see.
John Huh: I’m riding this wave until it crashes. Sure he’s never played here before but that has been the case for all the courses he’s played this year and he’s been doing just fine. He regressed slightly at the Honda, which had to happen at some point, but he did so in only one round (third round 75). His other three rounds were par or better. He had last week off to recharge his battery.
Ryo Ishikawa: He finished second last week at the Puerto Rico Open for his best career finish on Tour. He’s a special exemption into The Masters so the pressure for him to win before Augusta is off. His record at Transitions is awful, CUT, CUT and 71st, but he has finished in the top 13 twice this season.
Jim Furyk: His record at Transitions has been excellent the last three years with T13, WIN and T52 but his uneven start to 2012 moves him down to this group. T40 at AT&T, T11 NTO and CUT at Honda leaves a bit to be desired.
Brandt Snedeker: In making the cut in four of five events, he has hit the top 10 twice, including last year’s fourth place finish. Snedeker started off 2012 on fire but has since cooled after running into first round scoring issues at NTO (75) and WGC-CC (75). He rallied nicely at NTO to finish T17 but was T45 last week.
Gary Woodland: The defending champion has been working with Butch Harman to take his game to the next level. As we have seen with multiple players, these new swing thoughts take time to develop. He’s made the cut in every start this season yet his best finish is T26 at WMPO. The familiar surroundings and positive thoughts this week could help Woodland break out of his quiet 2012.
Kenny Perry/Trevor Immelman: Whether you are shooting pool or just grilling out with friends, these two picks are coupled for your enjoyment. These gents are the spokesmen for Transitions so there’s no way they can’t play well this week, right? Perry has made the cut in four of five and Immelman has never missed. The best finish between the two is T17. Think of this as the 13 seed sneaking into the Sweet Sixteen after beating the 12 seed…
Each year there are certain teams that we believe will jump up and make some noise that maybe weren’t expected to do so. This happens every week on the PGA Tour but they don’t like to be called “Cinderellas” I’m guessing so we’ll call them The Overlooked.
Jeff Overton: His recent play is moving in the right direction with finishes of T44 NTO, T18 at Honda and T14 last week at Puerto Rico. He’ll get lost in this field but the Florida resident is worth a shot this week now that it looks like his wrist is feeling better.
D.A. Points: The Florida swing last season was not kind to Points, but this year has gotten off to a much better start. He finished T12 at Honda his last time out to hit the top 12 for the fourth time this season. He falls into this category because he’s ranked 92 in the OWGR. Plus, if the category is called “Cinderella Stories”, I couldn’t leave him out!
Troy Matteson: He’s made three cuts on the bounce after missing his first five of the season. He closed with 66 at Honda (T26) before closing with 69 last week in Puerto Rico (T32). Matteson has made the cut five of six times at Transitions including T2 in 2008, T9 in 2006 and T19 in 2009.
Justin Leonard: I know he’s missed three cuts in a row, but sometimes I have to punch myself in the face to wake up. This is the classic horse-for-course pick as JLO has made the cut in six of seven appearances at Transitions and he has hit the top 25 in five of those six appearances, including T20 the last two years.
Some higher seeds that I would be leery of advancing too far, if at all…
As you know, I never take guys in their first start back from injury, no matter how big their name can be. I rarely take them in their second starts either.
Here’s who’s on the list this week: Tim Clark, Paul Casey, Scott Verplank and Lucas Glover.
Jhonattan Vegas: Right now, he’s mired in the Sophomore Slump. He finished last at the HTOC to start the year (on the stat page it looks like 27th). In his next seven events, he’s made the cut three times and his best finish is T46. This is the exact reason why you don’t base your fantasy line-up on name recognition.
Sean O’Hair: He has been a regular at Transitions for the last seven years. He has five CUT a win and a top 10. His first time here, he was T10. He followed that with consecutive CUT before winning in 2008. You wanna guess how he’s done the last four years? Yep, CUT, CUT, CUT and CUT. His last three times out on Tour O’Hair has finished T45, T29 and T44 after finishing T2 at Sony. He’s too streaky for my liking.
Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge: Transitions Championship
Team Name: Mike Glasscott
Group 1: Charl Schwartzel
Group 2: Peter Hanson
Group 3: Jeff Overton
Group 4: Troy Matteson
Ned Said, “…
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Luke Donald: Last year Donald was a top-10 machine and he regained that form last week with a T6 at Doral. His only top-10 at the Transitions came two years ago when he tied for sixth place.
Matt Kuchar: Kuchar broke out of his mini-slump at the Match Play and he followed that up with T8 last week at Doral. He finished in the top-20 in three of his four starts at the Transitions, with his best finish being a T9 in '02.
K.J. Choi, Webb Simpson, Nick Watney
Justin Rose: After bowing out early at the WGC-Match Play, Rose went red hot. He finished T5 at Honda and a championship last week at the WGC-Cadillac. He has one top-10 in six starts at the Transitions and that came last year when he tied for fifth.
Brandt Snedeker: He won at the Farmers and he sports a good record at the Transitions with two, top-10 finishes (T8 in '08, fourth in '11) in five career starts.
Bo Van Pelt: Amazingly, he has tied for eighth in his last three stroke-play events on TOUR. His record at Copperhead is solid with a pair of top-10s (T3 in '05, T8 in '09) in eight career starts.
D.A. Points: He has had a nice start to the season with four top-12 finishes in seven starts. Points has played Transitions twice and he made the cut both times.
Gary Woodland, Ernie Els, Brendon de Jonge, Jimmy Walker, Geoff Ogilvy
Charl Schwartzel: He continues to have the hot hand in Florida with a T5 at the Honda and a T4 last week at Doral. This will be his first start at the Transitions.
Peter Hanson: Hanson has played well since the end of last season and he finished last week T4 at Doral. He did play here last year and finished T15.
John Senden, Marin Laird, Padraig Harrington, John Huh, Jonathan Byrd
“And Another Thing”
The analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat with GolfChannel.com's Ryan Ballengee on Wednesday at NOON ET. They will be breaking down the field at Transitions Championship and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter.